Apple in ‘not incredible product launch’ shocker

It seems that a couple of times a year the world holds it’s breath while Steve Jobs takes to the stage, probably wearing a black jumper / sweater / pullover / cardy (choose garment based on your nationality and age). Thanks to some numbskull, photos of the 4th generation iPod nano had already hit the Interweb, and someone was speculating that it was going to have GPS built in (wrong).

Today’s set of announcements, by Apple’s standards, were not incredible. Even the BBC News pages didn’t go overboard, but of course they gave Apple more coverage than they gave the Archos 5 a couple of weeks ago even though Archos’ announcement was a bit more revolutionary.

Firstly, the 4th generation nano… hey, what do I know? I’m sure Apple have done market research on what people want and the devices they have to fit into the market to suit peoples’ requirements. The nano’s raison d’être is that it’s small. So what have Apple done? Made it bigger. To be fair, the capacity has jumped up to 16gb and the screen is a bit bigger, which is nice. They’re also claiming it’s the slimmest iPod so far, but looking at the pictures it looks less flat than the 3rd generation iPod nano (I shall have a look at Lauren’s tomorrow). They come in loads of colours which is nice for people who want to choose a nano based on a colour preference, but bad for indecisive girls who will buy a pink one and then spend the next year wishing they’d gone for purple. Or orange.

Apple have added some interesting features to the nano… shake it and it will shuffle your music selection. I presume you can lock it otherwise that ‘feature’ will be a complete pain in the arse if you’re jogging. And like the iPod touch, if you tilt the new nano the screen will go into landscape mode (that’s quite cool for a small device).

The iPod classic is now available as 120gb, which isn’t terribly exciting news. The iPod touch has a slightly different case, external volume buttons and a built-in speaker. The iPhone 2.1 software update has less bugs and doesn’t crash as often (Mr Jobs is refreshingly honest at times).

All of the new devices, and iTunes 8, (which thankfully now features an install option to prevent it creating iTunes and QuickTime shortcuts everywhere) support a new feature called Genius. Setting up Genius involves the rather frightening announcement that iTunes is going to look at your music library and send the results to Apple. Mind you, I have nothing to hide, all my music is legitimate… and it’s not like I have anything by Westlife or Scouting For Girls to be embarrassed by. After a while, Genius tells me that it’s been turned on (ooo-err) and I can now create Genius playlists and use the Genius sidebar. Errr, okay, and this does what exactly?

“To make a Genius playlist, select any song from your library and press the Genius button at the bottom of the window. Genius playlists and recommendations will get even better over time, as more iTunes library information is gathered from you and other Genius users.”

Oh right, so just a couple of hours after launch I shouldn’t expect too much right now. So here goes, this is live… I clicked on ‘Talk Shows on Mute’ by Incubus. It told me I was missing ‘Earth to Bella, Pt. 1’ – which actually I have, but spelt ‘Part 1’. And if we’re going to be really anal (and I am), it’s not correct to use a period (.) after ‘Pt’ because the last letter of the abbreviated word is there. Genius also suggests that I should buy something by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but it’ll learn in time (because it’s a Genius) that I don’t like them.

Let’s try another… ‘Perfect’ by Smashing Pumpkins from the ‘Adore’ album. It suggests five songs that I’m missing, three of which I have (genius). And it also suggests I’d like the Stone Temple Pilots, Interpol, Pearl Jam, Pixies and Alice in Chains… which I guess is a fairly accurate stab at matching the genre. Oooh, and ‘In the Meantime’ by Spacehog – that IS a great song that I don’t have. Genius indeed.

Now, call me cynical, this doesn’t seem to be creating a playlist, it seems to be creating a list of music that Apple can sell you. I know an organisation who could learn from Apple’s marketing, but I’m not saying who.

Addendum: actually there is a little button down the bottom which does create a playlist of stuff I already have. Sorry Apple. Mind you, why it would put ‘Go With The Flow’ by Queens Of The Stone Age with ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys is anyone’s guess.


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